Israel: The Inscrutable Enigma
The Friends of Israel (Link) - Elwood McQuaid (November 18, 2009)
Mark Twain, the famous American author, humorist, narrator, and social observer, had great personal problems with the religionists of his day and many other aspects of the world he occupied in the 1800s.
He was, however, fascinated by the Jewish people. To him, they were both an enigma and an inspiration. His description, in his book Innocents Abroad, of the Holy Land�s topography chronicled the land�s barrenness and apparent hopelessness and was a moving landmark in the Jewish people�s progression across the face of history and the Middle East.
His observations of the area as a sterile wasteland fit only for the habitation of �owls and jackals� had an almost mystic quality, much like the explanation once given of the melancholy strains of Jewish, minor-key music.
�It�s as though, in the music of the Jewish people, that just beneath the pathos there is a joyful ebullience about to burst through.�
This refrain seems reflected in the words of Samuel Clemens when he wrote �Concerning the Jews� for Harper�s Magazine in 1898:
�If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star-dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly the Jew ought hardly to be heard of; but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world�s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers.
�He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it. The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished.
�The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?�
The secret of the Jewish people�s immortality is no secret. It�s written on every page of God�s eternal Word. Furthermore, it is confirmed on every successive Jewish march through history from the clouds of adversity. And when one views their situation in these troubled times, beleaguered by enemies and betrayed by friends, there is the vision of undeniable expectation. Israel is a nation in waiting, hanging on until the trumpet sounds to herald the entrance of a deliverer who will lead it into the light and bring an end to the anguish of the ages.
One of the great ironies is that the more there appears to be reason for depression, the more obvious it is that a great change is on the horizon. It is as though an inevitable, climactic consummation were on the way � an Armageddon-proportioned experience.
Biblically, the waiting will end with the promised Second Advent of the Son of Man, Messiah Jesus, in the day when �all Israel will be saved� (Romans 11:26).
In a way, the expectation of those awaiting His first appearance was comparable to what goes on today. For the Jewish people and their little nation then, things could not have been much worse. Pagan Rome was master of the world, and its grip tightened inexorably with every passing day. But there was the promise; the virgin shall conceive . . . the Savior shall arrive. And as rugged shepherds on the hills of Bethlehem could attest, He did arrive and changed the world. Our promise, as sure as theirs, will come � and come soon, we are certain.
Too bad so many brilliant and gifted men like Samuel Clemens still discern the shadow and ask the question, �What is the secret of his immortality?� Yet they never grasp the reality.
One of many of the amazing fulfilled prophecies in scripture is tied to Israel and the land. As the author of this piece pointed out, Mark Twain's description of the land of Israel was as such: �[T]he Holy Land�s topography chronicled the land�s barrenness and apparent hopelessness,� and it was �a sterile wasteland fit only for the habitation of 'owls and jackals' had an almost mystic quality.�
This is just how Ezekiel, in chapters 36 and 37, described the land would be when Israel was dispersed from it:
Ezekiel 36:1-4; 8-12
Also, thou son of man, prophesy unto the mountains of Israel, and say, Ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the LORD: Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because the enemy hath said against you, Aha, even the ancient high places are ours in possession: Therefore prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because they have made you desolate, and swallowed you up on every side, that ye might be a possession unto the residue of the heathen, and ye are taken up in the lips of talkers, and are an infamy of the people: Therefore, ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD; Thus saith the Lord GOD to the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, to the desolate wastes, and to the cities that are forsaken, which became a prey and derision to the residue of the heathen that are round about;
But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel; for they are at hand to come. For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn unto you, and ye shall be tilled and sown: And I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, even all of it: and the cities shall be inhabited, and the wastes shall be builded: And I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bring fruit: and I will settle you after your old estates, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the LORD. Yea, I will cause men to walk upon you, even my people Israel; and they shall possess thee, and thou shalt be their inheritance, and thou shalt no more henceforth bereave them of men.
I recently watched a documentary on Israel, I can't remember exactly what it was called, which went into detail on what happened in the land of Israel during the 20th century and how it went from the desolate wasteland that Mark Twain described in his 1869 book, The Innocents Abroad. It was pretty fascinating to see the history laid out without referring to scripture, but to see what scripture foretold unfold in history's telling. Just another one of many things people miss when looking at whether the Bible is true or not. Given this was written some 2,600 years ago, I think it strongly supports other scripture:
Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:
2 Peter 1:20,21
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.